Meg helps run Caerphilly's summer arts and crafts festival while trying to smoke out a murderer turn up the heat, because Some Like it Hawk!
The hilariously funny Donna Andrews delivers another winner in the award-winning New York Times bestselling series that has captured human and avian hearts alike. Meg Langslow is plying her blacksmith's trade at "Caerphilly Days," a festival inspired by her town's sudden notoriety as "The Town That Mortgaged Its Jail." The lender has foreclosed on all Caerphilly's public buildings, and all employees have evacuated except one. Phineas Throckmorton, the town clerk, has been barricaded in the courthouse basement for over a year.
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July 17, 2012
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Excerpt from Some Like It Hawk by Donna Andrews
"Welcome to the town that mortgaged its own jail!"
The amplified voice blaring over the nearby tour bus loudspeaker startled me so much I almost smashed my own thumb. I'd been lifting my hammer to turn a nicely heated iron rod into a fireplace poker when the tour guide's spiel boomed across the town square, shattering my concentration.
"Mommy, did the blacksmith lady do that on purpose?" piped up a child's voice.
A few onlookers tittered. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, then opened them again. I checked to make sure that all fifty or sixty of the spectators were safely behind the fence around my outdoor blacksmith's shop. Then I raised my hammer and began pounding.
Nothing like blacksmithing when you're feeling annoyed. The voice from the tour bus still squawked away, but I couldn't hear what it was saying. And I felt the tension and frustration pouring out of me like water out of a twisted sponge.
Along with the sweat. Even though it was only a little past ten, the temperature was already in the high eighties and the air was thick with humidity. It would hit the mid-nineties this afternoon. A typical early July day in Caerphilly, Virginia.
But in spite of the heat and the interruptions, I managed to complete the current task--shaping one end of the iron rod into the business end of the poker. I flourished the hammer dramatically on the last few blows and lifted the tongs to display the transformed rod.
"Voila!" I said. "One fireplace poker."
"But it needs a handle," an onlooker said.
"A handle?" I turned the rod and cocked my head, as if to look at it more closely, and pretended to be surprised. "You're right. So let's heat the other end and make a handle."
I thrust the handle end of the poker into my forge and pulled the bellows lever a couple of times to heat up the fire. As I did, I glanced over at my cousin, Rose Noire. She was standing in the opening at the back of my booth, staring at her cell phone. She looked up and shook her head.
"What the hell is keeping Rob?" I muttered. Not that my brother was ever famous for punctuality.
I wondered, just for a moment, if he was okay.
I'd have heard about it already if he wasn't, I told myself. I pushed my worry aside and kept my face pleasant for the tourists. After all, I'd been making a good living off the tourists all summer. However inconvenient it had been to move my entire blacksmithing shop from our barn to the Caerphilly town square, it had certainly been a financial bonanza. Maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea if the town held Caerphilly Days every summer.
I just hoped we didn't have to continue them into the fall. What if--
I focused on the tourists again and continued my demonstration.
"To work the iron, you need to heat it to approximately--"
"That tent on your right contains the office of the mayor," the tour bus boomed, even closer at hand. "Formerly housed in the now-empty City Hall building."
No use trying to out-shout a loudspeaker. I smiled, shrugged apologetically to the tourists, and steeled myself to listen without expression as the voice droned on, reciting the sad, embarrassing history of Caerphilly's financial woes.
"Alas, when the recession hit," the loudspeaker informed us, "the town was unable to keep up with payments on its loan, so the lender was forced to repossess the courthouse, the jail, and all the other public buildings."
Convenient that they didn't mention the real reason Caerphilly couldn't make its payments--that George Pruitt, our ex-mayor, had stolen most of the borrowed funds for his own use. Actually, a few buses had, until he'd threatened to sue, so now they just mentioned the ongoing lawsuit against him. Not as dramatic, but less apt to backfire.
"And to your left, you can see the Caerphilly Days festival, organized by the citizens to help their troubled town out of its dire plight."
I always winced when I heard that line. It wasn't exactly false--but it did seem to imply that we craftspeople were donating our time and our profits out of the goodness of our hearts, to benefit the town. We weren't--we were making good money for our own pockets. Our real value to the town lay elsewhere.
Not that we could let the tour buses know that--or worse, the Evil Lender, as we all called First Progressive Financial, LLC, the company that had foreclosed on so much of our town. Only our new mayor made an effort to call them FPF, and that was because he spent so much time negotiating with them and had to be polite.
I glanced into the forge and was relieved to see that my iron was hot enough to work. I glanced at Rose Noire and nodded, to indicate that I was about to start hammering again. She bent over her cell phone and began texting rapidly. To Rob, I assumed.